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March 11, 2019

Faces of Fauquier: Making prints feeds artistic passion

Photo/Don Del Rosso
“I didn’t know how to make a screen print and I wanted to find out,” Warrenton resident Carolyn Pomponio says. “So, I took some lessons.”
Some of the artist’s prints.
I’ve always had to make art — no matter what the medium I was using.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
For as long as she can remember, the 85-year-old printmaker had to keep her hands busy.

“As a little girl, I had to make things,” explained Carolyn Pomponio, who lives with her daughter and son-in-law near Warrenton. “That made me happy. And art was the path.”

In 1953, Mrs. Pomponio left her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisc., to study art history and English literature at George Washington University.

By the following year, she had met and married Peter Pomponio, who would become a prominent Washington-area commercial developer during the 1960s. The couple married, and Mrs. Pomponio eventually left college to raise a family.

Determined to get a degree, she later enrolled in George Mason University and earned a bachelor’s in graphic arts and design in 1982.

A trip in the mid-1980s to New York City, where she saw a quilt exhibit, “really sparked” her interest in printmaking.

“I thought the quilts were so beautiful that I bought a book to learn more about them,” Mrs. Pomponio recalled. “I thought, ‘I could do those patterns; they would look great on paper.’ I liked the graphic design (aspect). I like the orderliness.”

Her “design-oriented” work has focused on quilt and rug patterns, “interior ’scapes” — furnished rooms and various still-life scenes, for example — and geometric shapes.

Over the years, she has learned and used at least eight printing techniques — including silk screen, lithography and metal etching — to transfer her often complex drawings and later photographic images to paper.

Her less traditional work combines a technique that involves the spontaneous application of ink to paper, including dribbles sometimes with the stick-end of a paint brush that provides texture.

“I like them because they look freehand and loose,” Mrs. Pomponio said.

In 1985, she founded the Washington Printmakers Gallery, which gives artists a place to display their work.

Last November, the Georgetown gallery hosted a nearly month-long exhibit of her work called “Looking Back, Moving Forward.”

The retrospective part of the exhibit speaks for itself, Mrs. Pomponio suggested.

“The ‘Moving Forward’ is meant to show you that there’s more good stuff coming,” said the artist, who still creates three to four unique images per year and multiple prints of those images.

Depending on size and intricacy, gallery prices for Mrs. Pomponio’s work range from $150 to $500 per print.

• Age

• Home 
Near Warrenton

• Work
Administrative assistant, Patton Boggs, Washington, D.C.,1999-2014; division manager, Covance Health Economics & Outcomes Services Inc., 1994-99; Giegerich & Associates Inc., Bethesda, Md., executive assistant, 1991-93.

• Why do you make prints?
I’ve always had to make art — no matter what the medium I was using. And, so I didn’t know how to make a screen print and I wanted to find out. So, I took some lessons.

There’s a sense of accomplishment. I don’t know if you’ve ever painted a painting, it turned out well and you were proud of it and you wanted to do another.

• Family
Four children; 8 grandchildren; 2 great grandchildren. Her husband, Peter Pomponio, a Washington metropolitan-area commercial developer, died in 2013 at age 79.

• Education
Bachelor’s degree, graphic arts and design, George Mason University, 1982; Holy Angels Academy, Milwaukee, Wisc., 1952.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
Five years.

• Why do you live here? 
To keep tabs on my daughter and son-in-law.

• How do you describe this county? 
Beautiful, verdant, serene, quiet and complete — with deer, raccoons, red fox, beautiful birds of many distinctions and black bear.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
More bookstores, more good restaurants and maybe a movie theater.

• What do you do for fun? 
Walk, read, make prints, dine out, watch movies, walk Oscar — our little Dachshund — and visit with friends and family.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
Aside from my beautiful little apartment in my kids’ house, Claire’s at the Depot.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years? 
Still beautiful, I hope.

• Favorite TV show?
I am a news junky — so I watch CNN, MSNBC, but also Jeopardy!, the Sunday news talk shows and Netflix for movies.

• Favorite movie? 

• Favorite book?
Books by Jane Smiley, Ann Taylor, Jane Hamilton, Laura Hillenbrand, John Green, Anita Shreve, John Greenya and Cormac McCarthy.

• Favorite vacation spot? 
Outer Banks, N.C.

• Favorite food?
Fresh fish, especially flounder, salmon and tuna.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom? 
If you received a Catholic education you got the message every day: Tell the truth; don’t lie; don’t make things up. That’s what the nuns pounded into us. It keeps you on the straight and narrow.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My husband, Peter. He was smart; he was handsome; he played a mean tennis game. He had a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. He loved me; he loved his children; he loved good wine and good food and he knew how to combine them.

He was a great father — a fine example to our four children on what is right and what is not right, what is important and what is not.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery? 
I would take my share of $1 million and set sail around the world, which leaves $1 million to each of my four children. Easy math!

Have a suggestion?
Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? E-mail Cassandra Brown at, Don Del Rosso at or Editor Lou Emerson at
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